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17 Sep 2020

Can you use your electric car battery to feed energy back to the grid for a profit?

By Jeroen
  • Read time: 2 minutes
Some smart charging stations can charge and discharge batteries of electric cars to cope with fluctuations in the power supply. This innovation is also referred to as reloading. How does that work exactly and what can electric car owners do with it?

The UK government recently announced it was going to provide funding to double the amount of rapid charging points.£70m has been allocated for 3,000 extra charging points bringing the UKs total to 5,000.

The problems of green electricity for network operators

There is much talk today about green electricity. Like many other countries, the UK is trying to reduce CO2 emissions. To achieve this, ways are being devised to generate green energy. For example, electricity is increasingly being produced with solar panels and wind turbines. In principle, that is an excellent step to combat climate change. Yet there is a problem for which no solution has yet been found. It appears that it is a problem to store all that power.

Differences between peak times in generation and power consumption

In many cases you depend on the elements to generate green electricity. The peak times of green energy generation do not always correspond with the peak moments of our electricity consumption. During the day, for example, electricity is generated by solar panels on the roof of your house. But many people are not at home. They want to use this power in the evening. You still want to make optimal use of green energy. Therefore, the generated power will have to be stored until it is needed for use.

An example problems with storage of renewable electricity

In an ideal world, all electricity used in the UK would be green. Yet that is by no means always feasible. Scientists and governments around the world are looking for ways to achieve that. Up to now, electricity storage seems to be the only solution. There are still many problems when it comes to the efficient generation and distribution of green energy. When the wind blows hard, it cannot always be taken advantage of. Windmills are even regularly turned off on such days. That is because the generated power simply cannot be saved. Smart charging stations, in combination with a large number of electric cars, could offer a solution.

Using the battery of your car as energy storage

You can use the battery of your electric car as a buffer for storing surplus energy and for feeding energy back to the grid if necessary. A number of households already use their car’s battery to store electricity, although this is only possible with specific batteries. In Japan, for example, that is the norm, while in Europe there are a limited number of cars that can do this. The idea of ​​the super smart charging stations is actually exactly the same. Only it doesn’t concern one household, but the entire power network. The principle whereby cars return electricity to the network is also called vehicle-to-grid.

The capacity of an electric car’s battery

For a long time the biggest problem with electric cars was the capacity of the batteries. Fortunately, huge strides have been made in the last ten years. The batteries are now more than powerful enough to keep a medium-sized car driving for hours. That is of course good news for the vehicle-to-grid system. There are large differences between the capacity of batteries in electric cars. Large cars have a battery of around 100 kWh, while smaller ones start around 20 kWh. An average household uses more than 8 kWh per day. A fully charged battery can therefore provide power to several households for a day. This makes the vehicle-to-grid system capable of storing sufficient energy. It therefore has the potential to be an adequate buffer.

Benefits for the owners of electric cars

Making better use of green energy is of course a very good goal. But what benefit do electric car owners get from it? A smart charging station uses your battery to store electricity. And when the battery is used a lot, the capacity and the peak power go down. The intention is that electric car owners can earn money by making the battery of their electric cars available. The reward will increase if your electric car is connected to a smart charging station during peak hours of power consumption. It is not yet completely clear how high this reward is.

Do you want the charging station mounted on the wall or on a pole?
Is the charging station for business or private use?

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Written by Jeroen

Expert in e-mobility and climate solutions